I've been a language learner of Mandarin for just over a year now, with about 8 months in classrooms and 4 months studying abroad in an immersive environment. And I can honestly say that by the second month abroad, I had learned more than in all 8 months in the college setting . The classes weren't bad by any means, but "wading in the pool" of a language a few hours a week cannot ever hope to match the learning of jumping right into the sea of Mandarin immersion. But enough bad analogies - have you ever considered a language immersion program yourself, or done one?
What was good about it, and what bored you? Did you learn much of the language and culture? If so, how? If not, why?
Finally, do you have any recommendations for a program you'd really recommend someone who feels like they've done their fair share of travel, especially in China? I've done the tea ceremonies, hopped around various museums, and saw enough Chinese temples that they blur together. I want something fresh.